June 16, 2013 5:11:23 PM
OMAHA, Neb. - On the day before Mississippi State University and Indiana University baseball programs will play each other for the first time ever in the winners bracket of the College World Series, both head coaches are being more than coy with their starting pitcher announcement.
MSU (49-18) may legitimately not know who they want to send to the mound first Monday night against the Hoosiers (7 p.m., ESPN2) as Bulldogs pitching coach Butch Thompson told The Dispatch MSU Sports Blog at the Creighton University practice facility Sunday morning that he hadn't spoken to MSU coach John Cohen about the debate yet.
"All three of the teams in our bracket scream for our left handed pitching to be good," Thompson said. "That's all I feel good telling you right now."
Before the hour-long practice session at Creighton's all turf field Sunday morning, Cohen named three potential candidates in senior left handed pitcher Luis Pollorena (6-3, 4.32), junior right hander Ben Bracewell (1-1, 1.48) and sophomore right hander Trevor Fitts (0-0, 2.42).
Thompson's comment should be evaluated as his opinion on the relief options as much as the starter with MSU relying on senior southpaw Chad Girodo and sophomore lefty Ross Mitchell throwing 2 2/3 innings of shutout relief in the Bulldogs' 5-4 victory over Oregon State Saturday.
"We'll probably make a decision a little later on today," Cohen said. "I think the format helps us more than most because of how much we rely on our bullpen. Your kids are going to play better when they don't have to play day after day after day."
Indiana coach Tracy Smith, who said Friday in the pre-tournament media conference that he manages "with his gut", declined to name a starting pitcher after the Hoosiers (48-14) defeated the University of Louisville 2-0 Saturday night in its first ever College World Series game.
"We'll get back and talk about it and kind of see what we want to do," Smith said Saturday night. "I watched just a couple of innings in the (Mississippi State vs. Oregon State) game today. I was walking around and getting some hot dogs and stuff. We feel like we've got I would say two, but I can honestly say three capable guys that we could choose from and I'm not trying to be evasive. I honestly don't know who our second game until I get back and look at it and we'll talk about it in detail."
The most likely of those three "capable guys" for the Hoosiers is third-year sophomore right hander Aaron Slegers (9-1, 2.13) as the 6-foot-10 giant pitched the first and second game of the NCAA Bloomington Regional and Tallahassee Super Regional this postseason. Sleger, the 2013 Big Ten pitcher of the year, presents a lot of problems for the opponent because of his lanky frame and was a fifth round pick by the Minnesota Twins last week in the 2013 MLB Draft.
"He is going to be coming down angle and it's so hard to describe to normal fans how hard it is to hit a baseball coming down than a flat pitch from a shorter guy," Mississippi State junior outfielder Hunter Renfroe said. "If he's got a nasty breaking pitch, and his numbers would suggest he does, then his arm angle may be coming from higher than the hitters eye in centerfield. That's really difficult to pick it up then."
If MSU goes with Pollorena and Indiana goes with Slegers, then the pitching matchup Monday night would have a pair of hurlers that have a 13-inch height difference on the mound.
At 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds, Pollorena said a few months ago he still believes his lack of height is something he can use to his advantage especially against college hitters which he says still believes underestimate his arsenal of pitches.
"I think it's the height thing (because) they see me on that mound and think 'well this guy must not be able to throw hard or get me out at all'," Pollorena said. "It's just another thing that people have doubted me about in my career."
All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.
4. A Stone's Throw: Beware COLUMNS